It’s among the most debated subjects in all of sports: who is the man deserving of being ranked as THE greatest heavyweight champion of them all? Most fans, and experts, say Muhammad Ali was, is and always will be the most obvious and deserving choice for the lofty distinction. But not everyone agrees. BBC radio hosts and boxing experts Mike Costello and Steve Bunce had a friendly debate on this endlessly fascinating subject, and Costello asked former heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman for his take.
Rahman, who ruled briefly in 2001, stated that the man he managed to defeat and was then defeated by in a return fight, Lennox Lewis, is in his opinion the greatest heavyweight ever.
“I’m finding it hard to put somebody ahead of him,” Rahman said. “I’m finding it extremely hard to put somebody ahead of him. I just think, in any era – all time; I just really don’t know who could beat him. (Ali, Dempsey, Marciano, everyone? Costello asked Rahman) Those guys were to small. Those guys were just too small for him. I mean, Ali was too small for George Foreman back then, when he was a smaller version of Big George, so how could he deal with someone like Lennox – who is huge and can move, and can use his distance well? I just think it’s really unfair to compare eras, but I just don’t know who could deal with that man.”
The Lewis critics would of course say that Rahman himself managed to deal with Lennox, as did Oliver McCall. Do those two losses prevent Lewis from being ranked at NO.1? As for Rahman saying Ali “was too small for George Foreman,” this is a little confusing, seeing how Ali of course beat Foreman, in a huge upset. Would Ali, at, say 220 or 225 pounds, really have been too small for the approx 245 pound Lewis?
As with any list of this kind, it’s down to personal opinion and not too much more. Lewis is certainly deserving of being placed in anyone’s Top-10, but a the very top, no. But maybe you agree with Rahman.
As for Bunce and Costello, each pundit’s Top-3 looks like this:
Costello: Ali, Joe Louis, Larry Holmes.
Bunce: Ali, Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes.